Top tech prize awarded to Limerick graduate


26 Jan 2004

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A computer systems graduate from the University of Limerick has become the first recipient of the Frederick A Krehbiel II Medal, awarded at a special ceremony at the University last week. The medal is awarded to an individual who has excelled in the area of innovation in global business and technology, ideally with a close Limerick connection.

Limerick-born Michael Desmond, 23, won the honour for his work on a new audio conferencing feature within the Lotus Notes Instant Messaging and Conference (Sametime) application. Desmond was one of a team of students who took part in Extreme Blue, an IBM global student work internship programme that was inaugurated at IBM’s Dublin Software Lab in Santry in 2003. Last summer Desmond helped design technology to integrate teleconferencing into Instant Messaging and so enrich the whole user experience.

Users of the new software benefit from a set of powerful call control and awareness features, such as who within a teleconference is currently speaking, who is muted, who has picked up and so on. Desmond designed the server-side software along with another UL student, Martin Harrigan, while other three other students – Trevor Johnston, Daragh Curran and Cenk Kuzuzi – developed other technical and business aspects of the project.

Although IBM has yet to announce if it plans to incorporate the technology as a core feature in a future version of Lotus IM, the project has already been immensely successful from a technical viewpoint, leading to an impressive five patent disclosures.

Speaking to siliconrepublic.com Desmond said he was delighted to receive the medal and accompanying certificate. He also paid tribute to the other team members and the IBM managers who were involved in the project: team leader Suzanne Maier and Mark Wallace, who acted as consultant and mentor.

It is not the first award Desmond has won. While at UL, he took the best implementation award for his final year project in which he developed a physics engine behind a 3D combat game, as well as the game itself. Having graduated from UL last year, Desmond has now been taken on by IBM fulltime as part of its 2003 student intake but he plans to take his computer training a step further this year. “I plan to go back to college and do a masters in computer science,” he commented.

The Frederick A Krehbiel II award takes its name from the chairman of the board of Molex, one of the largest manufacturers of electronic, electrical and fibreoptic interconnection products and systems in the world which has its Irish headquarters in Shannon. The company recently endowed a chair at the University of Limerick: the Fredrick A Krehbiel II Chair in Innovation in Global Business and Technology. Professor Brian Fitzgerald, the first incumbent, selected Michael Desmond as the first winner of the Frederick A Krehbiel II Medal.

By Brian Skelly